In what ways is Sir Philip Sidney a "Petrarchan" poet? Please use the following poems from Astrophil and Stella as examples: I, II, XV, XXVII, XXXIV, XXXVIII, XLI, and XLV
Discuss such matters as rhyme scheme, themes and content of Petrarchan poetry, traits that made Sidney distinctive, Petrarchan conceits, originality in Sidney's sonnets, and the process of self-fashioning
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Since your question about Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella sonnets as Petrarchan poems is highly specific, I will try to address, in the limited space available, some of the issues you raise by discussing some of the poems you mention.
- Rhyme scheme: Petrarch’s sonnets are divided into units of eight lines (the octave) and six lines (the sestet). The octave rhymes as follows: abbaabba. The sestet can rhyme in various ways, such as cdecde. Sidney follows the Petrarchan rhyme scheme in the octave, but his sestets tend to end with couplets. Sonnet II is an example.
- Themes and content: like the sonnets in Petrarch’s Rime sparse, Sidney’s poems deal with a self-pitying male who is obsessed with winning the affection of a woman who seems uninterested in reciprocating his desires (see sonnet XLV, for example).
- Traits that made Sidney’s poems distinctive: certainly humor is one of the traits that make Astrophil a distinctive sonnet lover; Sidney often has much fun mocking Astrophil’s obsessiveness, as in the following lines from sonnet I, in which Astrophil describes his frustration at his inability to express exactly what he feels about Stella:
Thus great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,
Biting my trewand [that is, truant] pen, beating myself for spite,
“Fool,” said my Muse to me, “Look in thy heart and write.” (12-14)
- Petrarchan conceits: “new-born sighs” (XV.8); seeming “most alone in greatest company” – a typical Petrarchan paradox (XXVII.2); the idea of love as “disease” (with a pun on “dis-ease”; XXXIV.5); Stella’s “heavenly face” as the source of “beams” of light (XLV.14); etc.
- The process of self-fashioning: the way Sidney presents a version of himself by describing Astrophil in XLI:
Having this day my horse, my hand, my lance
Guided so well that I obtained the prize,
Both by the judgment of the English eyes
And of some sent from that sweet enemy France . . . (1-4)
In general, by mocking Astrophil, Sidney presents himself implicitly as a man more serious, more virtuous, more responsible, more intelligent, and more mature than his fictional alter ego. He also shows that he has a splendid sense of humor.
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